The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, has completed his $44bn takeover of Twitter, according to US media and an investor in the firm.
He tweeted “the bird is freed,” in an apparent reference to the deal closing. A number of top executives, including the boss, Parag Agrawal, have reportedly been fired. It brings to a close a saga that saw Twitter go to court to hold the billionaire to the terms of a takeover deal that he had tried to escape.
The company’s chief executive, Mr Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal, and the firm’s top legal and policy executive, Vijaya Gadde, are no longer with the company, according to US media reports. Mr Agrawal and Mr Segal were escorted out of Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters after the deal closed, the Reuters news agency reported.
Twitter co-founder Biz Stone thanked Mr Agrawal, Mr Segal and Ms Gadde for their “collective contribution” to the business. The social media platform’s shares will be suspended from trading on Friday, according to the New York Stock Exchange’s website. Mr Musk said he bought the social media platform to help humanity and he wanted “civilization to have a common digital town square”. Many analysts argued the price Mr Musk is now paying for the company is too high given the decline in the values of many tech stocks and Twitter’s struggle to attract users and grow.
On a recent earnings call, the Tesla founder said Twitter was “an asset that has just sort of languished for a long time, but has incredible potential, although obviously myself and the other investors are overpaying for Twitter right now”.
Mr Musk’s early investments in Twitter initially escaped public attention. In January, he began making regular purchases of shares, so that by the middle of March he had accumulated a 5% stake in the firm. In April, he was revealed as Twitter’s largest shareholder, and by the end of the month a deal was finally reached to buy the company for $44bn.
He said he planned to clean up spam accounts and preserve the platform as a venue for free speech. But by mid-May Mr Musk, a prolific Twitter user, had begun to change his mind about the purchase, citing concerns that the number of fake accounts on the platform was higher than Twitter claimed. In July he said he no longer wished to acquire the company. Twitter, however, argued the billionaire was legally committed to the acquisition and eventually filed a lawsuit to hold him to the deal.
In early October, Mr Musk revived his takeover plans for the company on condition that legal proceedings were paused. While there has been no comment yet from Twitter on its new management, it is unlikely that Mr Musk will call himself chief executive of the firm. However, it is clear that he will be ultimately in charge of the company. He fell out with Mr Agrawal in early April – when he sat briefly on Twitter’s board.
In private messages revealed in court filings, Mr Musk talked about how Mr Agrawal didn’t understand how to fix the social media platform’s problems. Reports of his removal will be seen as signals of a clear change in direction for Twitter. Mr Musk, a self-styled “free speech absolutist”, has been critical of Twitter’s moderation policies and the news will be greeted with mixed feelings by Twitter users and employees.
In a tweet addressed to Twitter advertisers Mr Musk said that the platform could not become a “free-for-all hellscape” and must be “warm and welcoming for all”. As Twitter’s owner, Mr Musk was widely reported to be planning big staff cuts. However, Bloomberg has reported the billionaire denied that he would cut 75% of staff in a meeting with employees. But working at Twitter may become more onerous. The Tesla chief executive has previously tweeted that employees should anticipate work ethic expectations that are “extreme”.
The entrepreneur has also posted that his plans for Twitter include “X, the app for everything”. Some suggest this might be something along the lines of the hugely successful Chinese app WeChat, a kind of “super app” that incorporates different services including messaging, social media, payments and food orders.